Welcome back -- it's going to be a great year!

Soon the relaxing days of summer will be replaced with the excitement and butterflies associated with the first day of school.
In the coming weeks, more than 3,200 teachers will be preparing classrooms, creating bulletin boards, stocking supplies and organizing new curriculum material.

Food service workers will begin prepping over 98,000 meals per day, 85 bus drivers will be rolling through neighborhoods and thousands of district staff will be coming back to campuses ready to kick-off another productive school year.

Fresno Unified starts the 2016-17 school year buoyed by the successful conclusion of the last school year. I can feel that momentum continuing to move us forward as a district, elevating the possibilities for our more than 73,000 students.

Last year, the district saw a record graduation rate of 84% for our four-year cohort, a 4.5% increase over the year prior. Every comprehensive high school saw increases as did each of our student sub-groups.

Partnered with a decrease in the district's drop-out rate, Fresno Unified is clearly on the right path. Much work is still ahead as the district focuses on 100% of our students reaching the graduation stage.
At the end of last school year, our Board of Education invested $154 million in our Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) to ensure every student has the opportunity to graduate with the greatest number of postsecondary choices from the widest array of options.

Investments included committing ongoing funds of $12.7 million for English learners; increasing discretionary school site allocations by $5 million; improving safety with a uniformed police officer or a police chaplain at every school; expanding instructional time by 30 minutes to a total of 40 elementary schools; and adding more social-emotional supports at schools.

Other investments include building new aquatic centers at McLane and Roosevelt and investing $13 million for career technical education.

Collectively, these investments ensure that district youth -- from our early learners to those in high school -- have the necessary tools to stay in school and on track to graduate.

One of those tools is having a safe and productive learning environment. Thanks to Fresno voters and Measure Q, school sites around the district have been benefiting from state-of-the-art modernizations that enhance learning and create gathering places for the community.
That work has led to building two new schools -- Rutherford B. Gaston Sr. Middle School and the Phillip J. Patiño School of Entrepreneurship -- as well as new academic buildings, libraries, pools, gymnasiums, and countless renovations.

This month, after a $2.5 million renovation, Addicott Elementary will welcome some of our most fragile students back. Addicott, which serves students with severe disabilities, will reopen with additional handicap accessible walkways, safety features, and sensory walls and gross motor areas to help students expand their functional skill set.

The success of our district and our students wouldn't be possible without the support and commitment of our 10,000 employees and thousands of community partners.

Educating the youth of our community is not accomplished by one superintendent, one teacher or one student; it's accomplished when we all come together, ready to support the growth of our youngest residents with the belief that we can change the trajectory of poverty in our city, making this a better place for us all.